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Mike Smith wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a soldier who is currently deployed to Afghanistan. During my mid tour leave I chose to marry my girlfriend. She is Catholic and I am not. When we get home, we intend to have an official wedding ceremony.

  • Will this be possible since we are already married?
  • Will the fact that I'm not Catholic prevent us from being married in the Church?


  { Since I was married before deploying, will there be a problem having an official wedding later? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Mike —

First, thank-you for your service to our country; you give us the freedom to perform our work on the site. Please tell your fellow soldiers their safety and the safety of their families are in our prayers at

There are certain issues you left out of your question that we need in order to give you an accurate answer. Because of this, let me give you what the Church teaches on situations similar to yours and my colleagues can fill in anything I've missed.

Any baptized Catholic who wishes to enter into a valid sacramental marriage has to marry according to a Catholic form.

  • What does this mean?
  • This means they have to be married in the Church.
  • If their spouse, you, is a non-Catholic, the Catholic spouse just needs to get a dispensation from the local bishop, and
  • the non-Catholic spouse has to promise to:
    • not interfere with the Catholic spouse raising the children of their marriage Catholic.
    • both parties also have to enter the marriage with the proper understanding of the marriage consent and the purposes of marriage.

The underlying assumption is that the Catholic spouse practices her faith and follows the teachings of the Church including those against artificial contraception. The Church does promote natural contraception — also known (NFP) Natural Family Planning.

Part of my answer was taken from this posting:

When you get back from your tour of duty, I would encourage both of you to sit down with a priest faithful to the Church to talk about being married in the Church.

The fact you are not Catholic would not prevent you from being married in the Church, but differences in the faith among spouses can be a issue of division for your future family.

This is what the Catechism states on the issue:

Mixed marriages and disparity of cult

1633 In many countries the situation of a mixed marriage, (marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic), often arises. It requires particular attention on the part of couples and their pastors. A case of marriage with disparity of cult (between a Catholic and a non-baptized person) requires even greater circumspection.

1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.

1635 According to the law in force in the Latin Church, a mixed marriage needs for liceity the express permission of ecclesiastical authority. (cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1124) In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. (cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1086) This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church. (cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1125)

1636 Through ecumenical dialogue Christian communities in many regions have been able to put into effect a common pastoral practice for mixed marriages. Its task is to help such couples live out their particular situation in the light of faith, overcome the tensions between the couple's obligations to each other and towards their ecclesial communities, and encourage the flowering of what is common to them in faith and respect for what separates them.

1637 In marriages with disparity of cult the Catholic spouse has a particular task:

"For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband."

(cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14)

It is a great joy for the Christian spouse and for the Church if this "consecration" should lead to the free conversion of the other spouse to the Christian faith. (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:16) Sincere married love, the humble and patient practice of the family virtues, and perseverance in prayer can prepare the non-believing spouse to accept the grace of conversion.

If you are ever interested in, what faithful Catholics believe, or going deeper into the faith, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Tell everyone in your command that you, your fellow soldiers, and commanders are in our prayers . . . praying you get home safely.


Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Mike —

I'll simplify my answer: yes to the first question and no to the second, and when you have a chance you should set up an appointment with a priest.

The priest would be responsible for the Marriage prep and the ins and outs of this particular relationship.

Fr. Jonathan

Mary Ann replied:

Mike —

God bless you for your service, and your choice to marry. If you married in a civil ceremony only, the Church does not consider your girlfriend married at all yet, so there will be no problem with having an official Church wedding.

Your not being a Catholic is not a problem, but she will need to get some information from her pastor, starting now, because in most dioceses in America there is a 6-month wait to marry so that people can make, learn, and prepare for marriage.

Mary Ann

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